Cameroon’s legacy is already cemented
Updated: Jan 1
Emotions ran high during Sunday’s meeting between England and Cameroon. Cameroon qualified for the Round of 16 thanks to a stoppage time goal from Ajara Nchout that lifted them to a 2-1 win over New Zealand in their final match of the Group Stage. It was their second time qualifying for their Round of 16 in their second-ever Women’s World Cup.
Cameroon was frustrated early. In the 4th minute, Leuko was booked for a yellow card after elbowing Nikita Parris in the face. About ten minutes later, Annette Ngo Ndom, the goalkeeper for Cameroon, picked up an intentional back pass and England was given an indirect free kick inside the box. Toni Duggan rolled the ball for captain Steph Houghton, who sent the ball into the back of the net.
During stoppage time in the first half, Ellen White put away another goal for England. The goal was initially ruled offside, but after consulting VAR, the referee allowed the goal. The Cameroon players were furious and they didn’t hide their emotions. After a few moments, the players set up for the last few kicks of the first half.
At the start of the second half, Cameroon scored a goal very similar to the one England had scored at the end of the first half. But this time, the referee consulted VAR and decided the goal was offside. Cameroon was outraged and again, it took a bit of time for them to regain their composure and return to the pitch.
Cameroon ultimately lost the match 3-0. After the loss, England Head Coach Phil Neville spoke to the media and he was livid about the emotion the Cameroon players showed. “There are young girls that are playing all over the world seeing that behavior. For me, it’s not right.”
There is a lot to dissect in Phil Neville’s comments. But what I want to emphasize is that Cameroon’s legacy in the world of women’s football has already been solidified.
During the match, Al Jazeera published an article titled “FIFA World Cup: The Cameroonian girls who dream of football.” The article talks about Rails Football Academy, the first football academy for girls in Cameroon. It is the project of Gaelle Enganamouit, the star of the Cameroon side.
The academy trains around 70 girls, who have all had to fight sexism and poverty to get here.
“Here they have everything: coaches, jerseys, training equipment, a physiotherapist, and the guidance we give them all the time,” said coach Emmanuel Biolo. “Gaelle Enganamouit really wants these kids to be the next generation.”
Al Jazeera talked to two teens who dream of playing professional football. For them, Enganamouit is a hero.
“I’ve seen Gaelle [Enganamouit] play on TV. I’ve never missed one of her matches,” one girl said. “She plays so well, I want to be like her.”
That’s the example this Cameroon team sets for girls. And that will be their legacy.